Friday, December 16, 2005


And today my most favourite month is born. Amongst Tamilians, Marghazi is the month of auspicious activities. It is supposed to be the favourite month of Lord Krishna and his famous devotee Andal. This month bears a lot of beauty and it is the singular set of human activities (driven by the divine will of bliss) that makes this month very special to me. For a billion dollar prize I couldn't get to recite the thiruppaavai and the like.
The beauty of this month (which straddles the Gregorian months of December and January) is best felt in the southern parts of India, more so in Tamil Nadu. To me it was always the crispness of winter that made it a tingling month, but Madras made me see more. I was exposed to the sheer ringing bliss of this month when I was 12 yearsold. We had moved to Madras then and were living in the "old" part of Madras which contains Mylapore, Alwarpet, Abhiramapuram and other localities. From the terrace of our house we could see the Santhome Church to the east, the Kabaleeshwarar temple to the west and the Kutcheri road mosque to the north. My best friend lived to the south of my house! The setting is vital to realise how well trapped I was. There was no escaping this onslaught of tremendous overwhelming other-worldliness.
A typical marghazi day starts at 4:00 hrs. Mom would wake up as stealthily as she could and shake her head when she would see me lift my head from my pillow as soon as her feet touched the floor beside her bed.
"Poi thoongu paa!" (Go sleep, dear)
But I wasn't interested in sleeping. I had 11 months to do that! I would rush to brush my teeth. The world that blanketed my home was still dark, but that was well planned too. Mom would complete her preparations for the day and draw the kolam (and example of that can be found here). I would watch from the stairs. Dad and my sis loved sleeping any time of the year and more so through the chilly mornings of winter! Mom would hum one of the typical songs that are sung during these months. I know the tunes by heart, but can never get the words in my mouth. It was sheer pleasure to watch the white rice-flour design glistening in the light of some distant street-light with all those dots and curves dancing to the humming tunes which filled the darkness... borne by the darkness. I would hug my knees tightly and hope that the beauty was caught as completely as my shin and thigh.
Then mom would return to the prayer room and go about preparing pongal (a rice, legume, pepper, ginger, cashewnut preparation. Not sweet.) and singing the paasuram of the day. She would often sing offbeat (as I later got to know) but it was better than all the correctly sung songs by others. Her hair would still be drying in those thin towels which we called Malayala Thundu (for reasons unknown) and then the incense would be lit. Lamps, music, fresh flowers, incense, birds, slowly increasing glow of the morning... what more could I ask for?
I would then take a walk down the streets which lead to the Kabaleeshwarar temple. All the houses dotting the lane were prepared with rice-flour designs and a quaint decoration of a yellow flower in a small mound of cow-dung (which served as a holder for the flower). A yellow flower rising out of the brownish-olive green mound was very beautiful especially when surrounded by the rice-flour designs. All the houses smelled of warm hearths. Married women with a bright red pottu (mark on the forehead) were so beautiful. I would smile at all of them as I continued my morning trip down an otherwise plain lane.
The music in the temple (Srinivasa Perumaal temple) mingled with the beautifully metered hymns and periodical ringing of brass bells rang sharp in my chest and softened my nerves. There is very little that compares to that feeling. Then I would walk back to my home. What follows is what I loved the most.
The streets bloomed with chirpy young girls fresh out of their blessed ritual of decorating themselves with the bright colours of their paavaadai-dhaavani (also called a half-saree: basically a long flowing skirt, a short blouse and a long stole) and their tresses rising from between long strands of jasmines and roses -- a black that held many braids, flowers and my heart. I walked through the lane which jingled with fresh giggles like the dew that trembles at the tip of a leaf. The rice-flour designs giggled and the rapid run of anklets and fragrance left me walking in an intoxicated dizzy.
I would reach home to find pongal ready. I liked it without any salt in it, the way mom used to make it for Uppiliappan Perumal. The ghee (clarified butter) would glide down the scoop and quench the sizzling thirst of the hot fried cashews. This usually was breakfast too.
What everyone gets to see of Marghazi are the numerous concerts and temple festivals. What endeared me was more than that. This month is for the gods and everything is offered to the gods. People do not buy anything special for themselves nor do they occupy new houses or conduct weddings. This month is dedicated to the sheer bliss of remembering the gods and in the many man-made wonders of realising the beauty that we all think resides only in the Heavens... please do walk into Madras at this time of the year -- it is not often that the heavens descend beneath our feet and fill our being.


  1. @Eroteme:
    The following phrases, sentences seem to me to be sheer inspiration received direct from wheresoever the Heavens descend from...

    "Driven by the divine will of bliss"

    - because not many of us realize that the Divine will for Bliss is inherent in and intrinsic of every dot and point and nook and cranny of all existence. Bliss is our birth right because it is also what the Divine wills for us.

    Reminds me of these similar lines:

    "O Bliss who ever dwellst deep-hid within
    While men seek thee outside and never find,

    "It is not often that the heavens descend beneath our feet and fill our being"

    - Aaah! A Beautiful concept, this one, of the heavens deigning to descend on to our earth, and into us, filling our being..Truly inspired methinks, straight from someplace else.

    Similar ideas in these other lines too -

    "All heaven's beauty crowd in earthly limbs"
    "...A branch of heaven transplant to human soil..."

  2. lovely express...

  3. Anonymous4:07 PM

    hey.. Feels like my blissful trip, through 'Maarghazhi' is already over !.. Excellent description of your (g)olden days during this month in Chennai(madras?).. ........... KAR

  4. Excellent description..Absolutely Can't miss the early morning pongal..though not from chennai have been there during december..but in a city like mumbai i have been lucky enough to have brought up in a locality dominated by south indians and a temple near by...apart from that i love winters.. the best of all...

  5. hey in many parts i felt as if i and u were one. the beauty with which u described the celebrations in tamil nadu touched my heart.i fast on margashirsh(in kannada) thursdays and trust me its so beautiful. music( ringing bells and hymns)mesmerise me...
    u put ur heart into words.

  6. Dear P,
    I am glad that you found those lines interesting... Thanks for sharing those quotes with us. Aurobindo?

    Dear S,
    Merci. Glad it was to your taste! :-)

    Dear P,
    I thought you were a Tamilian. Your profile name sounds so Madrasi! Glad you liked it.

    Dear N,
    Thank you... you are very generous with compliments. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you wrote: in many parts i felt as if i and u were one So far, but yet so near... :-)

  7. @Eroteme:
    Of course it is Sri Aurobindo; by and large, I do not find anyone else worth quoting (excluding present company and Shakespeare, of course!)

  8. are making me to consider shifting from Kamba Ramayanam to Andal Thiruppavai! ;) That was a nice post - very sincere and very beautiful.

  9. dear eroteme,
    yes...this nearness overshadows the distance..becoz physical closeness doesnt guarantee that mutual understanding na..
    "not important to look at each other but to look out in the same direction"

  10. beautifully written memoirs Er! :-)
    unlike you, i realised the beauty of this month sometime only after my college days. In fact, i would eagerly wait for every cold morning to come so that i visit the perumal temple nearby.

  11. Anonymous12:15 PM

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  12. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Eroteme !

    Greetings ...beautiful changes in your blog layout!
    Happy 2010 ...



  13. Dear P,

    Dear SCS,
    You should... Glad you liked the post

    Dear N,

    Dear R,
    Glad you liked it.

    Dear C-J,
    Welcome to this blog. Glad you liked what you read. Hope to see you more often.

    Dear Anon-U,
    UMA!!! Where were you!? Missed you. You just vanished without a trace and I had no way of getting in touch with you. Do come by more often and comment on the newer posts... :-) Wish you a wonderful 2010 too.